Is Yelp Reliable?

When asking the question "is Yelp reliable?" you're probably asking about one of two things: either the actual information about the businesses listed on Yelp, or the reviews and ratings that people post about businesses on Yelp.  In the interest of thoroughness, we'll cover both separately.

Business Information

Yelp gets most of its information about businesses from third parties, who collect this information from publicly-available sources.  Yelp's users can also help with this process, correcting any erroneous information that they see, or adding new information about a business that has flown under the radar until now.  Many business owners also list and manage their business's information on Yelp personally.

What does this mean for how reliable the information is?  Obviously, information that is supplied by the people who own the businesses on Yelp is going to be accurate.  This is, of course, assuming that these people are active on Yelp, or don't change aspects of their business too often. 

Beyond that, the contributions of third parties and (more so) of Yelp's users is a bit iffier.  The hope is that with more people contributing information, more correct information gets posted, more incorrect information gets noticed and updated or removed, and both of these things happen faster.  However, with the number of business listings on Yelp most likely outnumbering the people who provide information services to Yelp on a regular basis, there are bound to be a few incorrect or outdated details somewhere.

The bright side is that the information on Yelp not only is rather specific, but also can be checked against publicly-available sources such as maps and telephone registries.  This means that most of Yelp's business information is bound to be fairly accurate, and if it isn't, it's most likely just out-of-date rather than completely false.

Reviews and Ratings

Critiques of businesses that people post on Yelp are most definitely the bigger question mark in terms of Yelp's reliability.  The general consensus is that most of the reviews and ratings on Yelp are posted by well-intentioned users who are looking to win social recognition or show off their creative writing skills; to those ends, it's in their interests to be honest.  Yelp is also considered to be one of the best websites when it comes to cracking down on businesses that try to cheat the system by writing their own reviews, or paying people to write positive reviews for themselves and/or negative reviews for their rivals.

With that said, there are still rumours and allegations about the number and type of ratings and reviews that show up on the pages of some businesses.  There are some small business owners who have accused Yelp's review filter system of causing fewer positive ratings and reviews and/or more negative ratings and reviews to show up on their company's page.  They suspect that this is linked to their decision to not purchase an advertising package from Yelp and just continue using Yelp's free features. 

However, several legal cases (as well as a few independent studies) have found no evidence linking whether or not a business listed on Yelp buys an advertising package to whether Yelp displays more positive ratings and reviews, or more negative ones, on that business's page.   Yelp itself even points out that some of the highest-rated and best-reviewed businesses on Yelp have never purchased advertising packages.

The bottom line, then, is that the majority of ratings and reviews for businesses on Yelp are fairly reliable, being kept in check by both Yelp itself and its users (who can label and comment on reviews as a sort of endorsement or as a way to point out something potentially fishy).  If you're ever in doubt, though, the surest way to know is to visit the business yourself and try out its products or services.  You might be delightfully surprised, disappointed, or get exactly what you expected.  You know your own shopping habits, so you're the best judge as to whether a business is ultimately good or not.


How Does Yelp Work?

You know a little bit about what Yelp is now, so how does the website specifically work?  Who makes what happens on Yelp, well, happen?  And what does each of these specific groups of people do?  Here's a breakdown of what Yelp is all about, and who is responsible for it.

One of the Internet's largest local business directories

  • Yelp adds and edits their information on local businesses based on a variety of sources.  Some of it comes from publicly-available sources, such as advertisements, websites, and listings elsewhere.  Sometimes, Yelp's users will spill the beans on the newest joint in town, or patch up some information that's out-of-date or not quite right on an existing spot.  Business owners can even put their own company information on Yelp themselves!

  • Search for a specific business by name and/or location, or browse businesses of a certain type.  You can also filter and sort your results on a variety of factors.  What do they specifically do?  Who has the best ratings?  What neighbourhood are they in?  How pricey are they?  Do they accept credit cards, or cash/debit only?  Are they open now?  Do they have a promotion on?

  • Learn about a business from top to bottom.  Get their telephone number, website address, a description of what they do, a map of where they are, and even some pictures of what their store or work looks like.  Certain businesses will even have custom videos, or "Call to Action" banners that will point you towards something cool going on with them right now!

Ratings and reviews help you shop smart

  • A big part of being a Yelp user is rating and writing reviews for businesses that you've been a customer at.  Each business that has at least one review has an average star rating, from 1 to 5; you can check how it got that rating by seeing who rated it "hot", and who rated it "not-so-hot".

  • You can sort reviews for a business by what Yelp thinks are the most useful ones, the date they were posted, the rating that the user gave, or by what the most trusted Yelp contributors had to say.  You can also search for something specific in a review, and even view reviews in different languages.

  • If you like a review, you can mark it as "Useful", "Funny", and/or "Cool".  You can also "flag" it if you think it breaks the rules for what should go into a review on Yelp.  Better yet, write your own reviews and let the Yelp community know what you think about the places that you've done business with!

  • Know somebody who's looking for advice on a certain business?  You can share a review that you find useful by sending an email, or by posting it on your Facebook or Twitter account.

Join the community, and become an Elite

  • Yelp is more than just a place to find, rate, and review local businesses.  It's a thriving social community.  If there's someone you know on Yelp, or who seems really in-the-know about the great companies in your area, you can ask to become friends with that person, or choose to "follow" them so that you never miss their latest review.

  • Got something on your mind that you want to say to or ask a particular Yelp user?  Send a private message to them, so that nobody will know what you're talking about but you two.  Or, if you're a fan of their profile, picture, or review writing, send them a "Compliment", and it will show up on their profile as a badge of honour for everyone to admire!

  • Head over to the "Talk" pages and post topics and messages to start a discussion or keep it going.  You can chat with other Yelp users about the local businesses, food, news and politics, entertainment, or just about anything else you want.

  • Spruce up your own profile, befriend and compliment others regularly, and keep writing honest reviews as often as you can… you just might become one of Yelp's Elites.  Not only will it get you special recognition and huge respect within Yelp's community of users, but you can also earn free stuff and get invited to exclusive parties!


Yelp Review

If you're thinking of using Yelp to help you find a local business that's right for you, here are a few things to know about what the website does, both well and not so well.

Pros

  • Businesses big and small are all here — Yelp focuses on businesses, so it's easier to find local specialty shops that may not show up on other directory websites.

  • Ask the community for help — You can send private messages to other users — or post messages on message boards — to get advice about certain establishments, or about finding a good business in an unfamiliar neighbourhood.

  • What's going on around here? — Yelp has information on businesses in most major cities and towns around the world, and it can also help you find special events going on around town.

  • Businesses appreciate feedback… usually — If you rate and review businesses on Yelp, you may be able to get special discounts, either from Yelp or the businesses themselves (assuming that you leave fair and honest reviews)!

Cons

  • The information is only as good as its supplier(s) — Yelp relies on its user base to supply information about businesses, and is lightly moderated.  So unless a business owner themselves decides to put their business on Yelp and keep that information updated, certain details may be inaccurate.  It's rare, but it's possible.

  • The word on the street may not be the final word — Certain people leave questionable reviews on Yelp, either because they have an incentive to personally support a company, or else they have a personal vendetta, are trying to cause trouble, or are simply a bad customer.  Yelp tries to filter these kinds of reviews out, but even the way they do this has come under fire for hiding too many good reviews and keeping too many bad ones up.

Bottom Line: 8.5/10

Yelp is a great service for discovering and learning about businesses in your area.  Whether you're looking to try a new place to eat, hunting for bargains, or searching for a place to have some fun, you'll likely find it on Yelp.  It's especially good when you're away from home and don't exactly know where the local hotspots or essential services are.

Yelp's main drawback is that it's mostly run by the people who use it, so some of the information can be inaccurate or biased.  Remember to read reviews on Yelp with a critical eye, and ask yourself if someone's just trying to sell a company as being too-good-to-be-true, or just whining that a company isn't doing more for them than what's perfectly reasonable.  Still, reviews aside, being able to quickly locate and learn something about nearby businesses makes Yelp a worthy tool.


What is Yelp and How Does It Work?

If you're looking to spend your money wisely, it helps to know the reputation of the people you're doing business with.   This is true not just within the business community, but also with customers who have actually bought their goods and services.  For example:

  • What local eatery has the fastest service times?
  • What hotel at your trip destination has the cleanest rooms?
  • What specialty shop has the products you want in stock?
  • Which local doctor specializes in the areas of health that you care about most?
  • Where can you get a great haircut or manicure/pedicure at an even better price?

Enter Yelp, a website that serves as a directory for local businesses, both big and small, in major cities and towns across the world in over 15 different languages.  In addition to finding the type of store that sells what you're looking to buy, you can also leave reviews and ratings for those you've already done business with.  Other people will do the same, and can comment on reviews that others have posted.  This way, there is a little more balance to reviews concerning whether they're positive or negative.

Yelp offers social media features besides being able to write and respond to reviews of businesses, too. You can create a profile about yourself and discuss local hot spots with the website's users.  You can also look for local special events, and even sometimes get special deals and discounts at your favourite businesses.  Whether you're looking for a new place to eat out or trying to find a garage that will treat your car right, Yelp is a good place to start.